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5 Tips to build strong readers

When teaching children to read, parents can lay the foundation for future academic success and a life-long love of reading with the right tools and approach.

Mom teaching daughter to read

Stephanie Dua, Brooklyn mother of three young girls, founder and CEO of Learn with Homer, and one of SheKnows’ Experts Among Us, offers these practical tips for building strong readers.


Read aloud to your child every day

Parents often wonder about the best way to read aloud to their children. Here’s what I recommend:

  • Show your child the cover page, as well as the names of the authors and illustrators.
  • Read stories slightly above your child’s level.
  • Ask a prediction question, such as, “What do you think will happen?” or “I wonder if… “
  • Ask a why question or two, such as, “Why did she go to the doctor?”
  • Pick a detail or two in the story and wonder about them out loud. Relate them to your everyday life. “What a fluffy bunny! When did we see a fluffy bunny?”
  • Help children remember new vocabulary by slipping new words into everyday speech.

Choose a wide range of books

What’s the best way to choose a great book?

  • When flipping through a book, here are two questions to keep in mind: 1) Does it interest you? If the answer is yes, chances are it will interest your child. 2) Will you want to read it aloud more than once? If so, it’s probably a good pick.
  • Try to choose stories with strong vocabulary and engaging characters rich in human experience and emotion.
  • How are the illustrations? Do they draw you into the story?
  • Don’t forget non-fiction! Some experts recommend up to half your child’s reading should be non-fiction. Explore topics like history, science, art and nature.

Don’t over-invest in alphabet books!

It is easy to think alphabet books will teach reading, but they don’t. When introducing the alphabet, I encourage parents to focus on lowercase letters since they make up 99 percent of what we see in print. More than anything, focus on practicing the sounds the letters make and hearing the number of sounds in a word.


Carefully select apps for toddlers and preschoolers

As parents, we’re pressed for time — and it’s not always possible to monitor every interaction our children have with technology. Save yourself the guilt by spending 15 to 20 minutes researching and test-driving the apps before making a commitment. I often use Common Sense Media and Appolicious as resources.


Build storytellers

Growing up, our family would take turns adding to a story over dinner. I’ve kept the tradition alive and do the same over Sunday night dinners with my girls. It’s a wonderful way to build young storytellers — plus the stories can be ridiculously fun!

Learn with Homer

Learn With Homer

Learn with Homer, which is launching August 1, is the first comprehensive reading app created by literacy experts. However, it’s so much more than just an app. It’s a connected learning experience crafted with the very young child at the center of its design. The app covers phonemes, sight words and other building blocks of literacy — all while exposing the child to science, history and a vast library of original stories, folklore, poetry, and non-fiction. You can find more about Learn with Homer at

About the author

Stephanie DuaStephanie Dua is one of the SheKnows’ Experts Among Us. She is the founder and CEO of Homer, a company producing a handcrafted early education experience for children and parents. Prior to founding Homer, Stephanie served as Senior Advisor to both David Coleman at Student Achievement Partners and the Gates Foundation’s Shared Learning Collaborative. From 2006 to 2011, Stephanie served as the Chief Executive Officer of the Fund for Public Schools. She previously served as the Director of the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Strategic Partnerships. Stephanie lives in Brooklyn with her husband and three daughters.

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